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How Important is Customer Support? For Insurance, Even More Than the Policy

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How Important is Customer Support? For Insurance, Even More Than the Policy

September 24, 2014

  By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

Customer support and the customer experience are some of those terms that are increasingly thrown around lately, mostly because it works so well for so many industries. Insurance agents are starting to get a handle on the customer experience concept as well, but there are still some limits holding the overall concept back. Perhaps one of the biggest, as far as the insurance industry goes but potentially beyond that, is a lack of understanding of just how important the customer experience is to overall operations. For many customers, it's actually shaping up to be more important than even the policy itself.

While it's commonly understood that the customer experience is all about the sum total of a customer's interactions with an agency, most agents simply see it—from an execution standpoint—as dealing with policy transactions and associated claims. But that's actually leaving quite a bit of opportunity on the table, and leading some to suggest a further retooling of operations, particularly in terms of the digital presence.

Watermark Consulting's Jon Picoult breaks it down, explaining that while agents are often right at the tip of the spear when it comes to executing client requests, setting up policies and processing renewals, there's not much thought given to what the client is actually thinking and feeling during these processes. While it's one thing to have a smooth, rapid turnaround of a policy, handing over a hefty document to the customer, it's worth asking how the customer feels about this. The customer likely leafs through the document, understanding maybe one word in three by the time the jargon, legalese, boilerplate and associated weasel-speak terms are filtered out. That customer begins to wonder why he or she even bothered, and that's not a positive customer experience. The customer doesn't feel good about the purchase at all, and probably doesn't feel terribly valued either, in terms of the time said customer spent to get the document made in the first place. That's not a good customer experience, and serves as a point to be addressed.

Most insurance will never actually be used, Picoult elaborates, so pinning the customer experience to a rapid claims resolution experience is almost like selling the best popsicles Alaska has ever tasted. Most of the time, no one will have one, so what is the point? Thus, many are looking to other parts of the customer experience to offer value, starting with things like Web-based self-service projects. Considering that over 95 percent of households with incomes over $75,000 a year have Internet access in the home, it's clear that getting online and offering options—particularly with mobile optimization--is a big draw.

Picoult sums it up quite well with just one key phrase: “Focus on the interaction, not just the transaction.” Indeed, by offering critical access to points that users are more likely to use, by offering more self-service options that can operate outside of normal business hours—and for people often working during said business hours, that can be a big help—and just in general focusing a little more on the customer, the business can in turn get more goodwill from the transaction, and improve the likelihood that a customer will return should some other need arise. It's not so much about the policy as it is about the policyholder, and the more insurance companies remember this—the more anyone remembers this with the appropriate noun changes—the better off overall that business should prove to be.

Edited by Alisen Downey
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